Spotlight on graduate student writers

Graduate Students, Science Writing, Student Voices, Writing Across the Curriculum, Writing Center Workshops / Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Did you know that approximately a third of the UW-Madison Writing Center’s visitors are graduate students? These writers come to the Center for assistance with course assignments, Master’s projects and theses, prelims, proposals, presentations, dissertations, publications, job application materials, and more! This week we’re turning the spotlight on two graduate students and asking them to tell us about their Writing Center experiences.

Our first graduate student, Rebecca (“Becky”) West, is a Ph.D. candidate in Nursing. Becky has been a registered nurse since 1981 and currently works at a rural clinic near her home in northwest Illinois. Her research focuses on developing mindfulness interventions that target populations at high risk for chronic stress and on testing the effects of mindfulness on stress-related outcomes and health. Becky’s currently revising her dissertation chapters and preparing a manuscript for publication.

Becky says that the Writing Center has been helpful to her in multiple ways, especially in helping her enhance the clarity of her writing and in keeping her accountable for making progress on simultaneous projects. In addition, she’s attended Writing Center workshops, including those focused on the dissertation writing process, and she finds the Writing Center’s website full of helpful resources. Becky and her Writing Center instructor have worked together for the past several semesters, allowing her instructor to get to know Becky’s writing style and to help Becky focus on the issues with which she’d like the most help. As Becky notes, “one of my challenges is getting too close to the work and occasionally failing to see my leaps in logic, leaving the reader guessing.”

Becky calls herself “a great advocate” of the Writing Center and says she can’t recommend it enough. As Becky puts it,

It’s a great service that’s free and so easy to access. I would recommend that all students make themselves familiar with the services—not just the one-on-one assistance, but the workshops too. The Writing Center really wants to see students succeed.”

Our second graduate student, Monica Hwang, is a Ph.D. candidate in Social and Administrative Sciences in Pharmacy. Monica’s research focuses on developing ways to communicate health information in a manner that is understandable and beneficial to consumers. According to Monica, the Writing Center has been very helpful in her graduate career. She notes, “I was someone who would take days to write just one paragraph. However, meeting with my instructor made me realize that not every piece of writing starts off being perfect. Actually, almost none of them do!”

For the past several months, Monica has been meeting weekly with her Writing Center instructor, which has helped her set and achieve her writing goals: “My instructor always asked me what I was planning to accomplish for the following week. Talking about my plans helped me to have more focused and reasonable goals for myself.” In addition, Monica found that talking about her writing and her rationale for each paragraph or sentence has helped her organize and clarify her thoughts. She says, “It’s helpful to talk to someone who’s not in my field because I realize what I have to explain more or be clearer about—things that I may have assumed people would just understand.”

Monica is happy to report that she successfully defended her dissertation proposal last month—and her advisor was very pleased with her writing! Monica’s now working with her instructor to develop a series of job application materials, including a cover letter, CV, research statement, and statement of teaching philosophy. Monica concludes,

I highly recommend the Writing Center for all graduate students. You always have somebody to talk to about your research and your goals.”

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